Dear Janet

Front Desk

Dear Janet

  By Rob Darracott

Dear Janet, Congratulations and welcome to community pharmacy. I wish you success in getting those you now represent the recognition they deserve and the resources required to continue to deliver for the public. Here are three things to prioritise as the PSNC’s new chief executive to help you get there.

Representation. Two and a half years ago, your predecessor kicked off a review of the shape of representation. It was a brave move and the right one – the PSNC stopped pulling up trees ages ago, and it had been clear to anyone who was paying attention that the PSNC’s long standing position that “local isn’t important” was for the birds. The pharmacy network’s community focus and neighbourhood reach is a vital, largely untapped resource. To make the most of it, pharmacy representation locally needs investment and support. 

What’s happened since? To the outside observer, introspection. Important, yes, when there’s lots to be fixed, but for two years? The focus seems to be more on how many people of what stripe will sit around the table bumping their gums than agreeing what needs to be done to support contractors in a multilevel NHS environment and working out how to do it.

With integrated care systems almost upon us, and NHS England upping the ante with £75k jobs designed to knit the system (including community pharmacy) together, we are inching towards what? A vote on whether the board table has 10 seats or 12? Fortunately, local leaders focused on what delegated commissioning might mean for contractors, are on the case. I’d recommend getting out and about, working out how to meet the new reality of system, place, neighbourhood with a multi-layered representational response which connects, learns, builds and negotiates for community pharmacy. 

Strategy (and policy). Among the 33 recommendations in Professor David Wright's review were some that were ‘obvious, implementable tomorrow’. None have been. The novel suggestion for policy development? No. Nothing. Training and development for the underpowered negotiating team, so they’re more like the docs? No, don’t think so.

The good professor also said the sector needs a clear strategy. No, nothing there either. NHS England continue to make all the running. We’re as far from a joined up approach (Wales, Scotland) as we ever were. Strategies don’t grow on trees, but you can put one together with expert help in about four weeks if you try hard enough… or at all. 

Personnel. With elections due in 2023, there’s less than 12 months to think about how the PSNC might benefit from an infusion of new blood. After seven years of real terms funding cuts, confidence in contractor leadership is low. Time, maybe, to have a quiet word with those who have been around the table more than, say, 10 years and tell them they’ve done their bit. Clinical. Local. Digital. That’s light years from the style of pharmacy prevalent when they joined the Committee.

As for the kind of people who should replace them, I’ve got a little list if you need one. 

Record my learning outcomes

Front Desk